Reports claim US will ban laptops in all cabins of flights from Europe

Security theatre.

US to ban laptops in all cabins of flights from Europe, officials say

Tough luck if you're taking an expensive laptop with you on a trip from Europe to the States, and wouldn't dream of checking it into the airplane's hold. You might have to stay at home.

The Daily Beast reports that the United States intends to extend its laptop ban to cover any flight coming from Europe.

"Acting on fears that terrorists can build bombs into laptops, Homeland Security has decided to expand the ban it imposed on Middle Eastern flights. Computers will now be checked as baggage."

This feels like pure security theatre to me.

Imagine your laptop was a bomb. Is it any less dangerous in the hold than it is in the cabin?

I don't think so. In fact, if something caught fire in the hold it's likely that it would be a far more serious problem than it ignited somewhere people might actually notice and be able to take action against it!

And don't try to tell me that something checked into the hold goes through tighter security screening than the items a passenger carries onboard themselves. If that's the case then *why* isn't the same screening being done for the cabin?

If you put your thinking cap on, it's not hard to determine that checking your laptop into the hold...

  • ...increases the chances of it being stolen.
  • ...increases the chances of it being handled roughly or damaged. Which, by the way, might be pretty bad news for any item containing a temperamental Li-ion battery.
  • ...increases its chance of not turning up at the other end, but instead being sent to Athens airport instead.

Oh, and I guess that a laptop checked into the hold also increases the chances of some nefarious intelligence agency tampering with it en route - perhaps to steal information or to plant some spyware.

But hey, forget that. After all, this has little to do with real security.

In March we tackled the earlier ban on carrying electronic devices on some Middle Eastern and African flights to the United States and UK in our "Smashing Security" podcast. Check it out below.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Overcast | Stitcher | RSS for you nerds.

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Check out "Smashing Security", the new weekly audio podcast, with Graham Cluley, Carole Theriault, and special guests from the world of information security.

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7 Responses

  1. harald

    May 11, 2017 at 4:48 pm #

    Grant Theft Laptop

    What is next, your 2th limb needs a 2th location..
    never forget the dangers of breastimplants, remove now!
    secure all shoelaces.. they might entangle reality..
    and all of us into tight nuts

  2. Andy

    May 11, 2017 at 5:28 pm #

    Or you start connecting though Toronto or Montreal. This crap stinks of security theater.

  3. Mark

    May 12, 2017 at 7:14 am #

    If they ban laptops on flights to the US then either this ban will spread to other international flights or passengers will need to be segregated for the entire journey between the security scan and the plane. It isn't sufficient to prohibit laptops from passengers with US boarding cards because a passenger with a European boarding card could pass the security check then hand a laptop to a different passenger.

    A comprehensive ban would be more disruptive on short-haul flights because business travellers often take a day trip with only hand luggage.

  4. Bill

    May 12, 2017 at 3:49 pm #

    I think if I was forced to put the device in my checked baggage, I would see how easy it is to remove the hard drive and carry that with me. Would not be happy if the device is stolen but at least I have my data.

  5. Gleb

    May 12, 2017 at 7:38 pm #

    actually if you think about it, it more likely they will just remove the laptop(s) for easy access to copy or insert maleware or other measures and not say anything

  6. Arnold Schmidt

    May 12, 2017 at 9:40 pm #

    I look forward to the day when DHS requires that all passengers strip completely when checking in and fly naked to and from the U.S. Of course, they will also not be allowed to carry on any objects, food, pills, etc. whatsoever. Oh, and it will be necessary for all passngers to submit to cavity searches before boarding. Stupid as this sounds, it would fit right in to the mind set of the DHS turkeys who believe that perfect security is attainable, and, of course, the sheeple who fly would just sigh and go along with it.

  7. SteveP

    May 15, 2017 at 11:58 am #

    As Mark points out above, this will be impossible o enforce without either a blanket ban on all international travellers or some sort of "laptop free" zone being set up for US-bound travellers separate from other destinations. That seems unworkable (at least in the short term) so it may mean that any terminal with US departures will have to ban all laptops in carry-ons.

    I suppose non-US travellers could "check" their laptop bags at Security and have them returned at boarding (the way the US does duty-free so that killer alcohol doesn't fall into the wrong hands). They'd probably only lose or break a few laptops a day…

    As far as your own data security goes, it looks like a Chromebook-style "dumb terminal" laptop may be the way to go. With flash storage capacity so large and cheap, encrypted personal files and apps can be carried on a USB stick or – even more secure from border guards – encrypted and kept on remote storage. (Although this also makes access possible by other remote users).

    Who do you fear more – the $15/hr jobsworth Homeland Insecurity thug or the NSA snoopers?

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